Hearing Canceled on Feds' Scrapped Plan to House COVID-19 Patients in Costa Mesa

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A Monday court hearing on the federal government's since-reversed plan to house coronavirus patients in Costa Mesa has been canceled, city officials said Sunday.

"On Saturday, February 29, we learned that Judge Staton cancelled the hearing for Monday, March 2, 2020 due to the federal government's removal of the site at this time," Mayor Katrina Foley said Sunday. "Our team will huddle up on Monday to strategize as to next steps to ensure the issue isn't pushed on us again in the future."

The hearing had been scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday in Courtroom 10A in U.S. District Court, 411 W. Fourth St., in Santa Ana.

On Friday, the U.S. government dropped plans to house coronavirus patients at the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. The announcement followed a 3 1/2-hour meeting held Thursday among state, federal and local officials on the plan that U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton put on hold last week.

Despite the federal government's decision to drop the plan, Monday's court hearing was initially scheduled "because they have not been willing to confirm with us that this site won't be considered in the future, so we want to nail that down," Foley told City News Service last week.

According to a Friday court filing, federal authorities have "determined, as it informed the state ...,  that it now does not need to use the Fairview Developmental Center site to maintain a federal quarantine of passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. This development reflects the
imminent end of the quarantine period for those passengers, as well as the
unexpectedly small number of passengers who have tested positive for COVID- 19."

Initially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that ``as many as 50% of the passengers (from the cruise ship that was quarantined while docked in Japan) could test positive within the quarantine period; in fact, actual results have been much, much lower,'' according to the court document.

Federal authorities said, however, the restraining order "deprived public health officials of a secure quarantine facility at a time when such a facility was badly needed, and has occupied key hospital resources in other counties at a time when those resources were needed for other patients. This litigation has also consumed myriad other state and federal resources, including the attention of key public health officials, at a time when the state is working to marshal every available resource to protect the public. Because the situation has evolved, and because state public health officials have found new ways to confront that evolving situation, this case is now moot."

Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, the vice chairman of the board, said, "I am glad the federal and state governments are doing the right thing after our conference yesterday (Thursday). It was clear there was insufficient information to support Fairview being the right and appropriate location for COVID-19 patients."

Do said there was "the lack of an operational plan and all of the information pertinent to the course of treatment, the handling of the patients and personnel that would be serving those patients."

Orange County Supervisors have called an emergency meeting for Monday morning to discuss a plan for how to handle a pandemic or outbreak locally.

"I think the fact that we succeeded in pushing back on Fairview being a repository of COVID-19 patients doesn't mean we're in the clear as a county,'' Do said. "We have been given warning by the CDC and World Health
Organization today that this pandemic may be severe, so it is time for us to
look internally and make sure we have an adequate plan in place. ... We need a game plan and playbook in place so we don't make mistakes."

Foley added, "I think that's an excellent idea," and noted that city officials were also in the process of assembling a plan for confronting the virus if there is a local outbreak.

Meanwhile, health officials announced Friday that more than 600 Orange County residents, who recently traveled to mainland China, have been asked to voluntarily stay at home under self-quarantine in case they develop coronavirus symptoms, the Orange County Register reported.

They do not have symptoms, but Orange County Health Officer Nichole Quick said the self-quarantine is a precaution in accordance with a Feb. 2 order from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

The self-quarantine is not mandatory, Quick said, because these residents are not considered high risk, and do not need to be monitored at a designated federal repatriation site.

There has only been one confirmed case of the virus in Orange County, and officials said that person has since recovered. But as a precaution, Orange County health officials Wednesday declared local health emergency.

Worldwide, more than 88,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, including 3,001 deaths, the vast majority of them in China. Seventy-three cases have been confirmed in the United States, including more than 30 in California.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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